Favorites Survive at Wimbledon

Monday, July 3rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — The biggest names in tennis survived the first week at Wimbledon, and a handful of obscure players made it, too.

On the men's side, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were joined by qualifiers David Prinosil and Vladimir Voltchkov, 6-foot-7 Alexander Popp and 35-year-old Gianluca Pozzi, the oldest player in the tournament.

On the women's side, top-seeded Martina Hingis and defending champion Lindsay Davenport advanced alongside Tamarine Tanasugarn, Magui Serna and Olga Barabanschikova, ranked 92nd.

Reaching the round of 16 were eight American women: Davenport, Monica Seles, Jennifer Capriati, Venus and Serena Williams and three lesser-known players — Lisa Raymond, Kristina Brandi and Lilia Osterloh.

``There's always a level of players that seems to get forgotten because they're not at the top,'' Davenport said. ``It's nice to see everyone still around.''

In keeping with tradition, there were no matches on the middle Sunday. The top-seeded Sampras and No. 10 Mark Philippoussis, among others, welcomed the rest.

Sampras is hampered by acute tendinitis above the ankle in his left leg.

``It'll probably continue to be sore,'' the six-time Wimbledon champion said after beating Justin Gimelstob on Saturday. ``I'm here to complete the tournament, win or lose.''

Philippoussis survived a five-hour marathon Saturday against Sjeng Schalken, winning the longest fifth set at Wimbledon in the open era, 20-18.

``I feel I've just been punched to death for five hours,'' Philippoussis said.

Advancing more easily was another Australian, 12th-seeded Patrick Rafter, who won his first three matches in straight sets. The two-time U.S. Open champion is bidding for his first Wimbledon title.

``I'm very determined,'' said Rafter, playing his best tennis since shoulder surgery last October. ``I'm very focused again. It's been awhile since I felt like that.''

Then there's Agassi, the 1992 champion and runner-up to Sampras last year. He dodged two match points Friday against Todd Martin, then easily beat Hicham Arazi on Saturday.

``Things are really starting to move the way I like them to,'' Agassi said.

Only six seeded men and seven women survived three rounds, meaning few marquee matches in the fourth round Monday.

Among the women, Hingis faces potentially the toughest path to the championship — No. 11 Anke Huber, No. 5 Venus Williams in the quarterfinals, No. 8 Venus Williams in the semifinals and No. 2 Davenport in the final.

The top-seeded Sampras faces a relatively easy path — if his ailing leg holds up. The only other seeded player in his half of the draw is No. 9 Thomas Enqvist, a potential quarterfinal opponent.

Rafter won't face a seeded opponent for at least two more rounds. He could get the second-seeded Agassi in the semifinals.

The only match Monday between seeded men pitted Philippoussis against No. 8 Tim Henman, bidding to become the first British men's champion at Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.

If Henman loses, perhaps Britons can switch their allegiance to Popp, a German who has an English mother and both German and British passports.

It should be an interesting week.

``The tournament's just starting now,'' Philippoussis said.

Seles agreed.

``Winning Wimbledon would truly be amazing,'' she said. ``You can't really even put that in words. But (there's) such a long way to go.''